Temporal variation in biodiversity and ecosystem service delivery in grasslands (T-BESS)

Dr Carly Stevens, Dr Simon Smart, Dr John Hodgson. Lancaster University, CEH.

Follow this link to find out more about a T-BESS publication on 50 years of vegetation change in the Sheffield region.

Human impacts on the natural environment have reached unprecedented levels. One of the consequences of this has been world-wide declines in biodiversity. However, although many of the services we rely on ecosystems to provide are underpinned by biodiversity we know little about the consequences of biodiversity loss for ecosystem service provision. The T-BESS project investigates the extent to which provision in ecosystem services from grassland ecosystems has changed over time focusing on a critical period of human impact, the last fifty years. The focus of this survey is calcareous grasslands.

This species-rich habitat forms an important part of a multi-functional landscape providing provisioning services through agriculture whilst at the same time being important for supporting, regulating and cultural services. We revisited sites surveyed in 1965 and recorded them using the same methods. We used a range of indicators of stocks and flows of natural capital, some of which were measured directly such as bee nectar sources (an indicator of the regulating service pollination), and others, such as annual above-ground net primary productivity (an indicator of the supporting service primary productivity), were inferred using plant traits.

The data collected was analysed to examine how provision of ecosystem services is likely to have changed since 1965 given changes in associated natural capital. We are collating data on drivers of change during this period such as climate, air pollution and land use intensity. By quantitatively linking drivers and ecological responses we are identifying drivers of change in ecosystem service delivery. This project will provide valuable information on ecosystem services in upland and lowland grassland habitats and how they have changed over time.